Cecil Roberts speaks.
Temporary link, Pueblo Chieftain
CHIEFTAIN PHOTOS/JOSHUA BUCK
On hallowed ground
Local, state and national union leadership gathered at the site 14 miles northwest of Trinidad for an annual memorial celebration with an estimated 350 current and former mine and steel workers.
Organizers said attendance at this year's event was the best in recent memory. Union sources say some sort of observance has been held almost every year since the tragedy.
Speakers told the crowd the Ludlow monument, like the national labor union movement it represents, must be preserved. Union leaders indicated national labor unions will work to restore the damaged monument.
The monument represents 11 children, two women and five striking coal miners killed on April 20, 1914, in Ludlow after mine guards and militia were called in by John D. Rockefeller's Colorado Fuel & Iron Mines to suppress a strike by Colorado UMWA miners. Damage to the monument - removal of the heads of the figures of a coal miner and his wife and one of the figures' arms - was discovered May 9.
In emotional speeches, UMWA International President and longtime union negotiator Cecil Roberts summed up the feelings of his and other national labor unions after learning of the vandalism.
"I looked to the Bible to try to determine how we feel and to determine what we should do. The shortest verse in the Bible is two words, 'Jesus wept.' When we heard about the desecration of this monument, we wept," Roberts said. "When I saw it yesterday, I wept. When you (union members) saw it, you wept."
Ernie Hernandez, president of the Pueblo United Steelworkers union local, said the monumental 1914 Ludlow event in labor history remains under attack.
"Vandals decapitated this precious 20-foot granite monument that symbolizes the sacrifices made by our ancestors," Hernandez said. "This vicious act of violence should not be taken lightly and every effort should be made to donate toward the restoration and improving this desecrated memorial and bring the vandals responsible to justice."
While there still is no evidence that vandalism of the monument was directed against organized labor, several union leaders in their speeches did not discount the possibility.Julie Green, who spoke for the Labor History Society, said whoever attacked the monument was doing the same work that Rockefeller's mine guards and militia did in 1914. "None of us would ever think that destruction of the Vietnam Memorial would be proper," said Roberts. "If someone had told us that destruction had occurred to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or the Lincoln Monument or Kennedy's grave in Arlington, we would not be able to believe that.
"So, to all of those who don't understand how working-class people feel about this monument: This is our Vietnam Memorial, our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, our Lincoln Memorial, because these people died in the cause of freedom for every single American alive today. Roberts and other speakers recalled details of the massacre and equated the tragedy with current labor efforts against what they still called "greedy corporate America and the rich getting richer."
"Because of (the Ludlow miners') sacrifices, we can ask for a decent wage, we can expect health care and pensions, Social Security and Medicare, a vacation and expect to send our kids to the schools of our choice," Roberts said, calling those who died at Ludlow "American freedom fighters." "We can expect equal treatment under the law because they gave their lives here."
United Mine Workers of America Trinidad Local 9856 President Mike Romero said union leadership was to decide later Sunday whether to replace the entire granite monument or only the missing pieces.
Romero, who leads national monument restoration efforts, said union contributions of about $15,000 have come in from across the country, including a $5,000 check donated Sunday by the International UMWA.
Roberts referred to Psalm 126 and his own previous remarks before giving the check to Romero. "Those who sow in tears, which we are sowing, shall reap in joy. So today we are sowing in tears with the beginning of raising funds to restore this precious monument. As president of UMWA, I suggest to you there is no question whatsoever that we will reap in joy because this monument will be restored."
Las Animas County Sheriff James Casias said his department and Trinidad Police speical investigating Det. Tony Fatur continue to follow all leads in the case and are talking to anyone who may have information. Officials say they have no suspects yet in the case, which they estimate caused $250,000 in damage.
Labor union workers gather despite vandalism to memorial
Colorado coal miners were the focus of an annual event in Ludlow Sunday, but the tribute is touched this year by even more sadness, after vandals recently destroyed symbols of the lost workers. News First’s Mike Saavedra was at the event along with some of Southern Colorado’s labor union members. The annual celebration in Ludlow, just north of Trinidad, is different this year, since the memorial statue was attacked in May. The vandals who decapitated the man and woman figures haven't been caught. The defaced granite monument has been a gathering place for laborers since it was built 86 years ago in honor of 18 people who were killed during a coal miners strike. Mike Romero of the Mine Workers of America says, "it's normally a celebration, but this year because of the vandalism it's a little sad. But were going to make the best of it." Pueblo Steelworkers member Raymond Sisneros has brought his family to this event for the last six years. He wants his grandchildren to see how their lives have benefited from other's sacrifices. Sisneros stated that the vandalism of the memorial makes him mad and says, "it's a disgrace what they did to the memorial, union people and everybody who respects life and people who help other people." Union leaders are fundraising to restore the memorial and hopefully heal raw emotions. Officials are offering a reward of 5,000 dollars for information that leads to the capture of the person or people responsible for the vandalism.
Article Published: Monday, June 30, 2003 - 12:00:00 AM MST
Ludlow victims made of flesh, stone
Union members vow repairs to ease pain of vandalism to slain miners'
By Cate Terwilliger, Special to The Denver Post
"This is our Vietnam Veterans Memorial, our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, our Lincoln Memorial," United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts told a cheering crowd. "There is no question whatsoever that ... this monument will be restored."
Nearly 400 people - many wearing union slogans - packed the annual commemorative service at the memorial 14 miles north of Trinidad, rivaling the largest turnout in memory. Many were moved to attend after learning vandals had desecrated the 85-year-old monument, which pays homage to mining families killed by state militia on April 20, 1914, during a bitter coalfield strike.
Two figures that anchor the 20-foot-high gray granite sculpture - a miner and a woman cradling a child in her arms - were decapitated sometime between a caretaker's rounds on the evenings of May 7 and May 8. The woman's arm, which was attached to her head, was also removed; the figure of the child was not harmed.
A search for the missing pieces turned up nothing, and Las Animas County Sheriff James Casias confirmed Sunday that investigators have no solid leads in the case, despite a $5,000 reward. There is no evidence to suggest anti-union sentiment motivated the crime, Casias said.
Still, many union members say the mutilation of such a poignant symbol of workers' rights feels like a pointed - and personal - assault.
"I hope whoever did it rots in hell," said UMWA District 22 president Fred Lupo, prompting applause from the crowd.
Pueblo steelworker Mike Rodriguez acknowledged the damage might be the mindless mischief of garden-variety vandals. "Still," he said, "that's what you feel in your heart - that it's anti-union."
About 100 steelworkers attended Sunday's service, marching with a "United We Stand" banner and chanting "Remember Ludlow!" They donated $2,000 toward yet-to-be-determined restoration costs for the monument; other union groups followed suit with checks ranging from $200 to $5,000, the latter from UMWA headquarters.
Union archives show the monument, dedicated in 1918, was made by a Springfield, Ill., company from granite mined in Vermont. Union officials have sent documentation and photographs of the memorial to a California stone conservator, who is expected to do an on-site assessment and present a budget for restoration.
Union chief Roberts assured the crowd that the monument would again be made whole. Describing the Ludlow dead as "American heroes" and "freedom fighters," he urged solidarity and perseverance during what he and other speakers characterized as a grave time for American workers struggling to preserve jobs and benefits.
University of Denver anthropologist Dean Saitta told the crowd, "It's always the best and most powerful monuments that are targeted for destruction, because they function so superbly in the struggle for hearts and minds,"
Saitta and other scholars are leading an archaeological project to recover artifacts from the Ludlow site, where strikers and their families spent the bitter winter of 1913-14 living in a tent colony. The monument's desecration is "a reflection of the state of the country right now, an assault on organized labor," Saitta said.
Letter to the Editor, Colorado Springs Independent July 10 -16, 2003
Promise of America
Kudos to Cate Terwilliger on her article "Almost Like They Massacred Them Again" (June 26). I was truly mortified to learn about the desecration of the Ludlow Memorial.
I am the proud granddaughter of one of the striking miners at Ludlow during that time. As such, the memorial holds a place near and dear to my heart. I think Cate did a great job of presenting the story of the "coalfield war" in southern Colorado in 1913-14. The Ludlow Massacre has always been a controversial part of Colorado history, but one that had a significant impact on labor relations to come.
This article provided valuable information about this tragic event and (hopefully) will help bring to light a population often overlooked in the establishment of this wonderful state -- the immigrant laborer.
I have chosen to become well read on the subject of Ludlow, obviously for personal reasons -- to try and learn more about a grandfather whom I never knew. This proud Croatian immigrant was a 26-year-old once-widowed bachelor trying to make a living in the southern Colorado coal fields. He survived Ludlow and went on to work the mines throughout New Mexico and Utah before returning to Colorado, where he met and married my grandmother. "Grandpa Sam" was but one of many immigrants who truly believed in the promise of America, and in their eyes the unions were a part of that.
May the Las Animas County authorities have much success in finding the culprits who vandalized this tribute to these often-overlooked contributors to Colorado's history.
-- Joyce Reid
Via the Internet
Publish Date Wednesday July 16th, 2003
Mike Romero, president of Local 2856 of the United Mine Workers of America, said Monday a final decision could be made within two weeks after a Smithsonian Institute monument expert visits the Ludlow site to determine the best course of action.
The monument honoring 13 miners, women and children killed in the April 20, 1914 , Ludlow massacre was vandalized May 8.
"The man from the Smithsonian in Washington, David Harvey, is going to come down and work with us and is going to imprint some stuff and will let us know about cost estimates," said Romero. "We're going to restore it but we want to wait for some expert advice first.
“We're looking at replacing just the heads right now but we're going to get some estimates first to see what kind of work they can do to make the statues look as original as they were."
Meanwhile, the Las Animas County Sheriff's Department and Trinidad police still have no reliable leads on the case despite a $5,000 reward being offered.
"We've had a few leads but nothing solid yet," said Undersheriff Derek Navarette. "We're still hoping somebody will call us with something to go on."
Romero said worldwide donations, mostly from organized labor, total $21,000 with more coming in every week from as far away as Ireland and Canada.
Current News Stories (since the 2003 ceremony)
About the Industrial Workers of the World | I.W.W. Posters | I.W.W. Prose | I.W.W. Poetry
About the Anti-Globalization Movement | Anti-Glob Posters | Anti-Glob Prose | Anti-Glob Poetry
About the Anti-war Movement | Anti-war Posters | Anti-war Prose | Anti-war Poetry
My Favorite Links | Report A Bad Link
Send Me Email